- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Maj. Cameron Gallagher, U.S. Army
Best Defense guest columnist
In the early morning of June 3, 1969, the USS Frank E. Evans was engaged in "Operation Sea Spirit" with more than 40 ships of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. During the exercise, the Evans collided with HMAS Melbourne, an Australian carrier that ripped the American destroyer in two, killing 74 sailors.
The names of the "Lost 74" are not inscribed upon the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall because they were killed just outside the designated combat zone, an area used by the Department of Defense (DOD) to determine if an individual was a Vietnam conflict fatality.
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and The USS Frank E. Evans Association both disagree with DOD’s decision to exclude the "Lost 74" from recognition on the wall. They argue that the Evans provided naval support fire for combat operations in Vietnam the month prior to Operation Sea Spirit and claim that they were scheduled to return after the exercise.
In addition, there is precedence for granting exceptions to servicemembers who were killed outside of the designated combat zone. One of the most famous occurred in 1983 when President Ronald Reagan ordered that the names of 68 Marines who died on an R&R flight outside of the combat zone be added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
As Memorial Day approaches next month, we need to ask ourselves: why shouldn’t we add the "Lost 74" to the more than 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial?
Here is the story by ABC News on the "Lost 74."
MAJ Cameron Gallagher is an AH-64D Apache aviator who served as a defense legislative fellow for Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) in 2013. The opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Army.